Tag Archives: mammals

Blue Oak Galls and Other Stuff, 07-09-19

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  It was about 56° when I got there, but it was up to around 75° when I left.  When I got there, I was happy to see my friend and fellow-naturalist Roxanne there, too. She’s helping me out with the Monarch monitoring facet of my volunteer work at the preserve. I really appreciate her help, too, because it makes the somewhat tedious process of looking over each milkweed plant go more quickly. 

Still no sign of Monarch eggs or caterpillars, and what was odd was we didn’t see much in the way of other insects either.  We did find some spiders (including a White Crab Spider and a little Jumping Spider), some aphids, a single praying mantis, and a couple of beetles but that was it.  The lack of critters was rather surprising and made me wonder if the area had been sprayed or something.  We worked on the plants for about 90 minutes and then went for a short walk through the preserve.

 Although we heard a lot of different birds, we didn’t see any Wild Turkeys today, which was very unusual. They’re normally all over the place. We came across two bucks but no does and no fawns. Both bucks were in their velvet.  One was a nervous youngster who was just getting his first antlers (a “spike buck”), and the other was a laid-back 3-pointer who was just lying in the grass on the side of the trail.  He kept an eye on us but didn’t move from his spot. I guess he figured we were no match for him, so we weren’t much of a threat.  He was gorgeous. And because he was so still, we were able to get quite a few good photos of him.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

The most exciting thing to me that we came across on our walk was sighting a few different species on a Blue Oak tree (Quercus douglasii) along the River Trail.  It had both Saucer Galls (Andricus gigas) and newly budding Crystalline Galls (Andricus crystallinus). The saucers start out flat and then form cups (some with smooth edges and some with serrated edges). The Crystalline Galls start out like tiny dark-pink urns and then swell up and get their sparkly spines. We hadn’t seen any galls at all on the “Frankenstein” hybrid tree further up the trail, so finding the galls on the Blue Oak by the river was rewarding. 

It was nice to see that this particular Blue Oak was also getting acorns on it. These oaks don’t produce acorns in drought years, and when they do produce acorns, they’ll produce a lot one year (a “mast” year) and then produce far fewer for the next two or three years.  So, as I said, it was nice to see this one with acorns all over it.  (The acorns usually take a year to develop.) Blue Oaks are also endemic to California, which means they’re found here and nowhere else on the planet.  It’s also one of the oak trees that is immune to the fungus that causes Sudden Oak Death.  Very cool trees.

Oh, and we found a Treehopper – but it jumped away before I could get a photo of it.  Those things are sooooooo weird-looking with their hunched backs. The one we saw was a Buffalo Treehopper (Stictocephala bisonia): mostly green with some burnished gold edges on it.

We walked the trails for about 2 hours.

Species List:

  1. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
  2. Brass Buttons, Cotula coronopifolia,
  3. Buffalo Treehopper, Stictocephala bisonia,
  4. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
  5. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  6. California Praying Mantis, Stagmomantis californica,
  7. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  9. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  10. Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis,
  11. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
  12. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus,
  13. Convergent Ladybeetle, Hippodamia convergens.
  14. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus,
  15. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  16. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera,
  17. Flax-Leaf Horseweed, Erigeron canadensis,
  18. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  19. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  20. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  21. Jumping Spider, Phidippus sp.,
  22. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
  23. Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria,
  24. Mushroom Headed Mayfly, Small Minnow Mayfly, Callibaetis ferrugineus ferrugineus,
  25. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  26. Occidental Grasshopper, Trimerotropis occidentalis,
  27. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii,
  28. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  29. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  30. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas,
  31. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  32. Sweet Pea, Lathyrus odoratus,
  33. Tarweed, Common Madia, Madia elegans,
  34. Wavy-Leaf Soap Plant, Soap Root, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
  35. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  36. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia,
  37. White Crab Spider, Misumessus sp.

Deer Jousting and Turkeys Mating Today, 03-12-19

I went out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and got there around 8:00 am. I was joined there by fellow volunteer trail-walker, Mary M. (The-Other-Mary), and we walked for a little over 3 hours. It was a very interesting walk!

Very early into the walk, we came across a Red-Shouldered Hawk who then joined another one… flew into a nearby tree and did their mating thing right in front of us. Around that same area, I could see a European Starling flitting and hopping through the branches of another tree with a large feather in its beak. It was a gift intended for a female Starling, but the male fumbled with the feather, it fell out of his beak and floated to the ground. D’oh! I kind of felt sorry for the little guy. He was trying so hard to make a big impression and failed epically.

The Wild Turkeys gave us a lot of photos ops today, too. We saw two leucistic turkeys, one a male and the other a female. I’d seen a couple of the females around before, but I had never seen the male until today.  Leucistic animals have a depletion of melanin that washes out most of their coloring, but they’re not pure white like albinos.  On the female turkey, her leucism made her look black and white; but on the male it made him look blond, light brown and white. I thought they were both soooo interesting looking. I took a lot of photos of them.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

While The-Other-Mary and I were watching one small flock of turkeys, we saw another group running across the lawns straight toward them… and then we saw the coyote running right on their heals! He jumped at a few of them but couldn’t catch any of them. and while this is all going on The-Other-Mary and I are trying to get our cameras to focus on the coyote and follow the action. It was my turn for an epic fail; I didn’t get a single image of the coyote. Dang it!

In another area, we’d stopped to watch some of the male turkeys strutting for a handful of females… and then one of the females approached a male, did a circle dance with him, and eventually let him mount her. The-Other-Mary and I are snapping photos as some other people walked up to see what was going on.  So, I got the chance to do my naturalist thing… I identified the males and females for them, told them about how the males strut, about their snoods, and about what attracts a female to the male. When the female turkey bowed down to the ground, I told them about her posture, how the male will “tread” on her, and how, if she’s aroused, she’ll raise her tail for the male… And while I’m talking, the birds are performing as though on queue.  We actually got to see two matings while we were there. During the second one, an Asian lady came up (who didn’t speak much English) and asked if we could take her photo with the birds in the background.  The-Other-Mary obliged her, but it was right when the male mounted the female, so this poor lady now has a photo of herself with turkeys doing the nasty behind her… It will probably turn into internet gold. Hah!

Further along the trail, we came across a pair of Canada Geese in the tree tops.  I’m not certain, but I think with was the same mama and offspring I’d seen a couple of weeks ago. It looks like the younger one can’t fly very well; only in short bursts.  So, they travel from tree-to-tree, then go down to the river, then go back tree-to-tree into the preserve or onto the lawns.

The other cool thing we got to see was a herd of about 15 or 20 Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, including some bucks that still have their antlers. The big 5-pointer was out there, and he started jousting with another older buck. At one point, when they “locked horns” the younger one pushed hard enough to force the older down to the ground. The older one recovered quickly, but he really had to push back HARD to get himself onto all four feet again.

When we were done with the walk, we went into the nature center to record our hours (we get volunteer hour credit for each hour we’re on the trail), and I got to meet Tova, the gal who oversees The Acorn publication. She thanked me for the article I’d written and sent to her on Red-Shouldered Hawks and appreciated that I was able to include photos I’d taken right there at Effie Yeaw. It’s always nice to put a face to a name…

As The-Other-Mary and I left the building, I had to stop to watch one of their snakes (on display) devouring a mouse. The-Other-Mary didn’t want to see that; and I thought that was funny because she’s ex-military and an avid hunter. Hah! So, we left before the snake finished its meal.

The-Other-Mary was very excited about the walk and said it was “one for the books”. We’re hoping to be able to meet up again soon.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
3. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronate ssp. auduboni
4. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
5. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
6. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
7. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
8. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
9. Golden-Crowned Sparrow,Zonotrichia atricapilla
10. Gopher Snake, Pacific Gopher snake, Pituophis catenifer catenifer
11. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
12. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
13. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
14. Red Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
15. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
16. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
17. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
18. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
19. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

An Overcast Day at the Preserve, 02-28-19

Date: Thursday, 02-28-19
Time: 7:30 am to 10:30 am
Location: Effie Yeaw Nature Center, 2850 San Lorenzo Way, Carmichael, CA 95608
Habitat: Oak Woodland and riparian boundary
Weather: Overcast, 43° to 46°

Narrative: I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my trail walking right after I fed the dog his breakfast. I arrived about 7:30 am and it was 43° at the river. The first thing I saw when I got into the preserve was a Red-Shouldered Hawk just sitting on the lawn. It hadn’t caught anything (that I could see) and stood there, looking around for a short while, so I was able to get some photos and a video snippet of it before it flew off into the trees.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

After going down the wooden steps onto the Bluff Trail, I caught sight of a Western Gray Squirrel running along the trail with a mouth full of grass and twigs, so I followed it… and found where it was constructing its “drey” (squirrel nest). Dreys are different from other squirrel nests because they’re formed on the outside of a tree or cavity and built where several branches come together. ((If the squirrel’s nest is inside a tree or cavity, it’s called a “den”.)) If it continues to build there, walkers should be able to get some good views of the squirrel and its babies.

Lots of deer were out, including several small herds of does and their yearling fawns. I hung around one group for a while just watching a doe grooming her fawn. They’re so tender with their babies; it’s so relaxing to watch them. I also came across a couple of bucks, into two younger ones who were sparring for a little while. One or two of the does seem to be showing their pregnancies already. ((The gestation period is 7 months long so around 203 days.))

At one point along the trail, I saw two odd shapes in the top of a bare-branched tree. Because the sky was overcast, looking up into the branches everything was backlit, so it took a while for me to figure out what I was looking at: a pair of Wood Ducks (a male and female) looking for a place to nest.

I also came across more fungi today than I did on my walk with my naturalist student the other day. Puffball fungus, mushrooms, Elfin Saddles, and three different kinds of jelly fungus, including the nicest specimen of Witches Butter I’ve ever seen. I found a nice specimen of Trametes betulina, a kind of fungus that looks like Turkey Tail fungus (Trametes versicolor), but it has gills! It’s sometimes called the Multicolored Gilled Polypore or Mazegill. This is the first time I’ve seen it live and in such wonderful color. (I usually see it in its later stages when it’s just a bunch of hard weird gills.) Very cool.

Because it was early and overcast and a weekday, I didn’t see a lot of people, but had short interactions with those I did see: got to talk to one lady about Black-Tailed Jackrabbits and another about jelly fungi.

I walked for about 3 hours and headed back home.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
3. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
5. Brown Jelly Fungus, Tremella foliacea
6. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica
7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
9. California Sycamore, Platanus racemosa
10. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
12. Deer Shield Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus
13. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
14. Elfin Saddle, Helvella lacunosa
15. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
16. False Turkey Tail, Stereum ostrea
17. Gilled Polypore, Mazegill, Trametes betulina
18. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
19. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
20. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
21. Lords and Ladies, Naked Boys, Arum italicum
22. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii (heard only)
23. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
24. Puffball fungus, Paltry Puffball, Bovista plumbea
25. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
26. Rio Grande Turkey, Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
27. Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia lavicola
28. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus, (heard only)
29. Turkey Tail fungus, Trametes versicolor
30. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
31. Wavy Leaf Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
32. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
33. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
34. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
35. Witches Butter, Golden Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
36. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
37. Yellow Field Mushroom, Egg Yolk Fungus, Bolbitius vitellinus
38.
Russet Toughshank mushroom, Oak Lover mushroom, Gymnopus dryophilus

My Behind-The-Scenes Tour at the Zoo, 02-07-19

Around 10 o’clock I headed over to the Sacramento Zoo to participate in their behind-the-scenes “hoofed animal” event. I got there a little early, so I walked around the flamingo pond, and was able to get a video snippet of one of the Crested Screamers screaming.  It was in the 40’s outside, so you can actually see the bird’s breath as it squawks. Around 11:00 am I was met by a woman named Kathryn who introduced herself as my tour guide – and let me know that I was the only one who would be going on the tour, so we could take as much time as we wanted, and I’d have her all to myself.  Cool!

I let her know that I was with Tuleyome and told her about our program on one of the wishing wells in the front of the zoo. Instant bonding. She liked talking with naturalists, she said. She asked me how long I’d been a zoo member and which animals I liked. I told her I really liked the “weird” ones like the Red River Hogs and the Abyssinian Ground Hornbills — and Coconut, the baby Snow Leopard, but everybody likes him. Hah!  She said they’d set up a tour for the Hornbills but had to pull it from their schedule because they were going into their mating season and could get aggressive with strangers. They can also do special tours – for a fee – if you’d like them to; just tell them what animals you’re interested in and they’ll work up an encounter for you. The cost is a bit prohibitive for me, $150 per person, but not overly pricey for someone with a good income.  This is the first time the zoo is doing these behind-the-scenes tours (inspired by “The Zoo” television show on Animal Planet), so their staff is excited to see how things go.

Anyway, Kathryn walked me back behind the animal hospital on the grounds and into the hoofed animal pathway along the back of the zoo.  First stop was the kitchens where meals are prepared for all of the animal every morning (and sometimes in the afternoon). Kathryn picked up a bowl of carrots and leaf lettuce and then we were on our way to see the animals.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos. (I was so engrossed with the tour, listening to Kathryn, that I forgot to take many photos during it. D’oh!)

As we walked along, Kathryn let me know that ALL of the plants on the zoo property and non-poisonous, so if an animal is able to reach outside the confines of its enclosure and grab a snack from a nearby bush or tree, it won’t get sick. She also said that the animals are checked at least once month for any zoonotic diseases (diseases which are communicable from one animal to another, or from animals to people and vice-versa) – and that’s done in part because there’s no way for the zoo to effectively keep errant birds, squirrels, mice and rats from coming into the zoo from the outside.

First stop was the giraffe pen, and Kathryn showed me the “squeeze box” areas that the giraffes walk into when they’re going to get seen by the vet or checked out by the keepers. Because the giraffes are so tall, of course, everything is on a huge scale. When we walked along the back of their paddock, the big Masai male giraffe came up to the fence to greet us – and ask for food.  He was super picky, though, and didn’t want the lettuce or carrots we had for him. He wanted acacia leaves. So, Kathryn got a bowl of them, and I was able to feed him those. You know about the giraffe’s long purple tongue, I’m sure, but did you know that their saliva is like thick slime? It’s to protect the tongue from injury when the giraffe pulls leaves and twigs from trees. I found out just how thick it was when the giraffe licked my knuckles as he was taking the acacia leaves from me.

Also, in the pen with him, among the other giraffes, were sister Reticulated giraffes, Sky and Goody. They’re super bonded to one another, and Sky kept giving Goody lots of kisses. Goody had a malformed foot, so the zoo staff along with a medical team from UC Davis, fitted her with a special boot to even out her footing. Sky came to get some acacia leaves, too, but Goody was more shy.

Then we walked around to the zebra enclosure. All of the zebras there right now are older females who have arthritis and other health issues. Their enclosure has mostly flat ground with only a few shallow knolls, so the old gals don’t have to worry about steep climbs or uneven terrain. Each one, of course, has its own unique stripe pattern, and their keepers can immediately identify who’s who just by looking at the pattern on the zebras faces. One of the zebra came up to get carrots, but I wasn’t allowed to feed her myself because the zebras have big sharp teeth, like a donkey, and can get a little food aggressive.

Then, we went to see the Bongos.  Mama Penny and her daughter Taylor (Swift) were in the large exhibit pen and the dad (I don’t remember his name) was in the smaller one. The Bongos are actually “forest” dwellers and are larger and heavier than gazelles or other similar species. They’re also slower moving. Males are darker in color than the females, but only when they’re young and virile. When they get older and their testosterone levels drop, the take on the same coloring as the females.

Taylor had made headlines about a year ago when she escaped from the exhibit and went running through the zoo.  There had been a violent rain and wind storm one afternoon that caused tree limbs to fall into the exhibit.  It spooked her and she jumped the fence from her exhibit into the Red River Hogs’ exhibit, where the fencing was lower, and then jumped the fence there into the zoo. Luckily, the zoo had just had a fire-drill about animal containment a couple of days before Taylor’s escape, so they were able to use baffle-boards (boards with handles on them), to surround Taylor and guide her back around behind the vet clinic – along the same route I was taking with Katheryn, to get her back where she belonged. It took all of 10 minutes. Phew!

When we were done with the bongos, Kathryn and I walked back to the vet clinic where I was “released into the wild” of the zoo. I really enjoyed the one-on-one time with someone so knowledgeable about the zoo and its animals and would love to go on other excursions if they’re made available.

I left Kathryn and I walked over to the area where the big cats are, and was very happy to see that Coconut, the baby Snow Leopard, and his mom, Misha, were out on exhibit. Coconut is getting so big now that he’s almost the same size as his mom and, at first, I mistook him for his dad, Blizzard. The keeper who was standing by the exhibit said he’s now about 9 months old and may be able to stay with mom until he’s almost 3 years old – but that will depend on Misha. When she gets to the point where she thinks Coconut is big enough and feisty enough to fend for himself, she’ll stop caring for him and tolerating him.  He’s getting pretty food-aggressive right now, but so far Misha has been patient with that and lets him have whatever her wants. Today was “bone day”, so there were a few large cattle bones in the Snow Leopards’ exhibit. Coconut greedily confiscated all of them and put them in a pile so he could gnaw on them. Hah!

There was a lot of construction going on throughout the zoo. The new Okapi exhibit is being finished up and is slated to open on February 15th. Although they’re hoofed animals, too, I didn’t get to see them on my tour because they were still in quarantine. The zoo if also refurbishing the jaguar exhibit and will be expanding the lion exhibit soon… Lots of changes.

Cosmo the Baby Flamingo and Other Critters, 01-22-19

I treated myself to a walk at Sacramento Zoo to celebrate my birthday. It was bright and clear outside, and on the cold side. It was about 44° when I got to the zoo and only in the 50’s when I headed back home.

Tuleyome’s post-wildfire restoration project was up on one of the wishing wells in the zoo (and it will stay up there all year).

You get a metal token when you winter the zoo, and you can toss it into one of the three wishing wells lined up along the front of the zoo. There’s a pot of money set aside for the well projects, and whoever gets the most tokens, get the most money out of the pot… So, I’m trying to get as people as I can to put tokens into Tuleyome’s well. Hah! We’re up against a wildcat rescue group and a Grevy’s Zebra project.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Because it was chilly, some of the animals were vying for sunny spots in their enclosures. The White-Ruffed Lemurs, for example, were lined up along the fence, some of them stretched out in the sun with their arms over their heads to warm up their limbs and bellies.

On top of their enclosure, there was an Eastern Fox Squirrel who found a warm metal corner on the screen and was stretch out on top of it with his chin resting on top of it. Hah-2!

The Wolf’s Guenon monkeys weren’t out when I went by their enclosure. Their latest baby, Rori, died suddenly of a respiratory illness last week, so maybe the momma was still in mourning.

I had never heard the big Crested Screamer birds scream before, but today, the keepers had returned one of the Screamers on exhibit, and the other two Screamers yelled when they saw him. What a racket! The one that had been returned had been off-exhibit for several weeks because it had a bad case of vertigo and couldn’t walk. Tests couldn’t find any indication of infection or disease, so they just kept the bird quiet for several weeks until it recovered by itself. It was still walking a little bit like a drunk today, and the other two Screamers kept close to it to help it along.

What was extra cute about the situation was the fact that the Screamers were followed everywhere by a little brown Fulvous Whistling Duck. The keepers said, that particular duck had bonded with one of the Screamers and followed it everywhere. When the Screamers nest and lay eggs, the duck sits in the nest with them… Awwwww… I guess he doesn’t mind the screaming.

Although I didn’t get to see Coconut today, I did get to see baby Cosmo, the young flamingo chick. She was walking with her keepers and went to the flamingo pond for a bath. At first, she didn’t want to go into the water, and kept fast-walking, just out of reach of her keepers, when they tried to grab her to set her into the pond. Finally, she walked into the water by herself and gave herself a bath for about 20 minutes. While she was doing that, the adult flamingos on the opposite side of the pond were having a fit, flapping their wings and honking at each other in excitement.

Cosmo didn’t seem to recognize them and didn’t acknowledge them in any way. She was the single hatchling in 2018 and was raised by humans, so I guess she doesn’t know she’s a flamingo yet. She is starting to pink-up, but still had a lot of gray feathers and though fully fledged is still pretty small.

The Meerkats were out, and always make me laugh. They rush all over the place, sometimes chasing their own reflections in the glass around their enclosure. And today, one of them found its way to the top of the high tower in the middle of their exhibit and kept looking around like a little furry telescope. A couple of them also spotted a helicopter flying overhead and tracked it all the way across the sky. So funny.

In the Chimps’ enclosure, one of them was lying in the sun on the floor, while the others were up near the open roof… And two of them decided to pee and pooped all over everything just as I was taking photos of them. I couldn’t help but chuckle. So rude! The orangutan was a little more polite.

The lions came out just as I walked by their enclosure, and the male was feeling kind of randy. He kept following the female around, making overtures to her, trying to get close to her back end, licking her tail. At one point, he put one of his front paws against her inner back thigh and kind of tugged softly at her. She just gave him a dirty look and kept on walking. Snub. Poor dude.

They’ve had several successful pairings in the past. They had their last litter about 5 years ago, though – three cubs – so maybe dad thinks it’s time to have some more.
I noticed the lioness licking at the wooden structures inside their enclosure (which is where the male usually “sprays”). I wonder if she wanted the uretic salt or something. I tried to get some close-up of where she was licking, and it DID look like there was something there, but I couldn’t tell for sure what it was.

I also got to see the sloth today. He’s hardly every out, but it’s really hard to get photos of him because he’s inside an enclosure that has a really tight fence-weave. The camera can’t ready see through the openings.

I had lunch at the zoo — a club sandwich, side salad and tea — but couldn’t eat it all. Their portions are either too large or my stomach is getting smaller (which would be okay with me).

I walked for a little over 3 hours, so I was at the edge of my limit for the day. I wanted to try for one last go-round to see if Coconut the Snow Leopard had come out before I left, but I just couldn’t walk anymore, so I went back to the car.

Meerkats at the Zoo (and Coconut Returns), 11-30-18

Since this is the only day for about a week that is supposed to be without rain, I decided to try taking a walk at the Sacramento Zoo.

It was a perfect day for that. About 56° outside, mostly sunny, hardly any people at the zoo. I really enjoyed it – AND my tumor pain was down to about 2 while I was there. So, it was nice.  Volunteers from The Hilton hanging around everywhere. They were trying to sell gift packages that included admission to the zoo, but also had access to some golf carts. I was able to get a couple of them to drive me short distances around the zoo – playing the “old lady” card sometimes works. Hah!

When I first went in, I came across one of the volunteers holding “Timbuktu” a Mali Spiny-tailed lizard.  The volunteer had put “Tim” on a heating pad to keep him warm, but for some reason didn’t seem to realize that once he was warmed up, Tim would be very active and mobile. The lizard kept trying to climb out of the volunteer’s hands; a real squirmy worm.

I’d gone to the zoo mostly to see their new Meerkats exhibit, but when I first got to the enclosure, the animals were all inside and workmen were setting up heaters for them because it was too chilly for them. “Come back in about 30 minutes,” one of the workmen said. So, I did that, and sure enough, all of the Meerkats were out by then. Some were still dozing inside a little dog-kennel-like thing, but others were busy digging holes everywhere and protecting the perimeter. I was surprised by how small they were; I expected them to be larger. But they were so active and so expressive. Really fun to watch.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

In an enclosure right next to theirs was Padme, the zoo’s resident Aardvark. She was sleeping in the sun in her “cave”. The cave is heated and has windows on the side, so you can see her when she’s in there. Every time I walked by, she was sleeping but in a different position. Apparently, she’s a restless sleeper.

When I first went by the Snow Leopard enclosure, the big male, Blizzard, was out, and I was able to get a few photos of him. The next time I went by, the mom Misha and little Coconut were out instead. On and off, they were rushing around, rolling over one another, and ambushing each other. Mom got little Coconut to run up the faux boulders along all three sides of the enclosure, exercising his muscles and teaching him out track prey at the same time.

At one point, Coconut ran from one end of the enclosure to the other and jumped on his mom, and a group of pre-teen boys standing near me all went, “Oooo, woooow!” really loudly. They were so loud that they startled Coconut and he stopped in his tracks for a moment. Then, brave little thing that he is, he walked right up the front of the enclosure, as close as he could get to the boys, and stood up with his paws against the fence looking at them.  Behind him, his mom, Misha, was starting to curl her lips and show her teeth. She apparently didn’t like her baby interacting with the kids. Eventually, she got Coconut to follow her up onto the boulders again, and they both sat and rested there for a while.

Yesterday’s rain had left puddles all over the zoo, and piles of wet leaves. The Red River Hogs seemed to like having a new “wallow” in their enclosure.

In their habitat in another part of the zoo, the Wolf’s Guenons were out, including a mom, two babies and the dad.  The mom didn’t like the fact that the Mongoose Lemurs had been moved into an enclosure next to hers and she kept “bucking” at them and rushing the fence to drive them away… then one of her babies came up to her begging for food and milk. He’s really too big to nurse, and she kept pushing him away from her breasts with her hands.  Then he sat down next to her and started to groom her, and she sat for that… until he made a grab for her teat again. She used one hand to moosh his face down and then walked over him to get away from him. Hah!  The dad seemed very much on the alert today, and on several occasions put himself between me and the mom and kids, blocking my view of them. So, I took some close-up photos of his face that turned out pretty good.

I thought with the cooler weather, the Red Pandas would be out and about. And they were both out, but they were both napping. In the kangaroo habitat next door to the Red Pandas, there was a male emu showing off for the female. He was strutting around with all of his neck feathers fluffed out – like a model on the runway with a huge feather boa. Among emus, the males build the nests, incubate the eggs and raise the chicks. It’s a little late in the season for the male to be strutting, but it would be neat to see if he builds a nest.

The only disappointment of my visit was when they let all of the chimpanzees out into their habitat. I heard the chimps all hooting, excited, and went over to see them. They were all sitting on the floor, grabbing up treats BUT the glass on the sides of the enclosure were all so fogged with the chimps’ excited breath that I couldn’t take any photos through it. Chimps in the Mist.

Around noon, I stopped to have some lunch before finishing off my zoo visit: chicken stir fry and tea. It wasn’t great, so I didn’t finish it. I understand that a big chunk of the price you pay for food at the zoo actually goes to the animals, so I didn’t feel the purchase was a total waste.

After lunch, I walked around a little bit more and took some more photos of the Meerkats and Snow Leopards and then headed home.